Learn how to gauge your pace
You may laugh, but would you ever walk up to a loaded barbell and lift it without considering what weight is on it? Odds are . . . the answer is No. Before lifting there are 2 very important things to take into account – The movement (Clean, DL, Snatch) and load. The same thing applies to rowing. Although barbell work appears to be so much more complex, there is a technique to rowing in order to get the most bang for your buck. . . No one wants to look like a cartoon character just spinning the wheel and going nowhere.
With all that said, technique is not what I want to cover today, but here is a series of great videos breaking down rowing technique if you are interested: CLICK HERE
Lets talk about the screen. . . we all stare at it, but do we really know where to look, what to aim for, or what the different numbers are calculating?
When rowing, there are 2 very important numbers to gauge:
1. Stroke Rate
2. Split Time
This is your strokes per minute (SPM) or how many times you go back and forth on the rower each minute. During training, your stroke rate should be somewhere between 18-26. In a competitive scenario (one in which you do not have anything else to pace for afterwards, Max Effort) may reach into the upper 30’s.
What is important about this number is that it measures the control of your pace. Many who do not monitor this number will have it jump from 18-24-22-26… That may not seem like an issue on a rower, but when you compare it to something like running . . . It just seems silly. Can you imagine going for a run and changing your pace every few steps? That would be exhausting and not very efficient.
Keeping the SPM around 20-24 is a great speed for a workout where you have to have some energy when you get off of the rower to complete KB Swings, Pullups, or a myriad of other movements.
Here is some homework to work on your Stroke Rate:
Practice holding a consistent stroke rate. Ignore your times and all the other numbers on the monitor. Practice holding a specific SPM for an extended period of time. At first it will be rough, but if you persist it will improve. If you are rowing to warm up for your workout, then try this ladder drill, done at an easy pace: Row for 1 minute each at 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20, 18. (Breaking Muscle)
This is the BIG number in the middle of the screen. This number represents the amount of force you are applying to each stroke. Much like the Stroke Rate, the goal is to be consistent across all strokes. This number is like the weight on the barbell. Before starting a Back Squat build, we usually have in mind what number we are hoping to work up to. Same applies to the Split time. Before beginning a workout with rowing, we should consider a split time that will be most efficient, consistent, and sustainable.
Here is some homework to help work on your split time and learn to start gauging what split time is best for you:
Like the stroke rate homework, practice split times while ignoring all other factors. Practice holding a series of different split times that range from feeling like a light jog to feeling like a sprint. Hold them for thirty to sixty seconds each. Practice this regularly until you have the power to make split times happens. (Breaking Muscle)